When you shop for a leash, look for a standard nylon 4-6 foot leash. As tempting as it may be, as fun as it may look, avoid the retractable leash. You’ve probably seen them being frequently used by dog owners in your area. I’d like to caution you against them, especially when you’re working with a new-to-you rescue dog.
First and foremost: you can’t control the dog when it’s 20-30 feet away from you. No matter how experienced a dog handler you are nor how well-behaved your dog might be. You cannot effectively control a dog at that distance – and this can lead to tragedy.
In fact, I’ve personally seen several dogs killed who were on retractable leashes. It happens in the blink of an eye, and stories like these are unfortunately all too common.
I was in a store in line behind a woman checking out at the cash register. She had her dog on a retractable leash. As she paid for her goods, the dog ran towards the automatic door which opened. Quickly the dog ran out the door, got to the end of the leash and with its force pulled the leash from her hand. The over-excited dog ran out into the street and was hit by a passing car and killed – in just seconds.
Another instance, I was at a park with my dogs and came across an owner on his cell phone. His dog was on a retractable leash as he was encouraging his dog to chase squirrels, as he laughed at his dogs antics. The dog darted out in the opposite direction across a bike path. The owner wasn’t paying sufficient attention (and could not effectively control the dog from that distance). A lady on a bicycle hit the dog. She fell, and the dog was killed.
Another encounter was watched a woman “jaywalked” with her dog across a street when a car came flying around a corner, she jumped back to the curb, but the retractable leash wasn’t lock. Her dog froze and was hit and killed.
Dog owners argue they are skilled using the locking mechanism but like all things mechanical they can fail. I’ve done impromptu tests with retractable leashes rated for “large dogs” where I was able to break the lock with less force than a large dog would be able to generate.
No matter how many people you have seen using them, and no matter how much freedom you feel your dog should have, stick with the non-retractable, nylon leash. Use the money you save on a few good chew toys and tasty treats.